Friend W and I are still attending a Friday afternoon class in our little market town. The class is called 'Dear Diary' and each week our Lecturer takes a different diary she has researched in the County Records Office and we read it and discuss it. It is fascinating stuff.
This week it was a diary kept by two young school boys just before their teenage years. They lived with their Grandparents in the Vale of York on a small farm. Their mother had died and their father was a grocer in Manchester, who paid infrequent visits to see them.
We know that later on they both joined their father in the grocery business and moved to Manchester, but here they are aged around 10 (one follows the other in the book, which was obviously kept safe in the farmhouse, where nothing was wasted, not even a simple book like this.)
The date is the early 1840's and so it has survived for over 150 years. What a treasure, thanks to it being handed down through the family until finally a distant relative handed it in to the County Record Office for safe keeping. Very thoughtful I would say, when many folk might have destroyed it. It is invaluable.
There is a lot about the weather, the barley crop, the mowing and gathering in of the crops, the picking and storing of the apples, the milking of the cow, and a lot about what time it is (to the exact second). But also there are various mathematical puzzles. I can surmise that Grandmother (or Grandfather) made them do school work in the holidays, particularly maths puzzles, in preparation for their employment in a grocery shop. They did both go as day boys to a local school. Here is one puzzle (our tutor did give us the answer the boys gave!)
"How many drops of rain are there in a thundershower supposing that it stretches three miles in length and two in breadth, that during its whole continuance the drops fell at the rate of 1820 per minute upon each square yard and it lasted forty minute."
These diaries are so important when thinking about the past and they are wonderful to read through. Another friend E, has kept a diary for many years - writing it daily and sticking into it pictures which are applicable to what she has written. I do hope that in two hundred years somebody is reading that. It takes some patience to keep it up. I tried in and managed from Autumn 2010 until the beginning of Autumn 2011, I have just found it on the bookshelf, so am off to make myself a cup of coffee and read what I did that year. One of the four Christmas cakes I make each year (three as presents) is in the oven so I have to stay near.
Oh and, by the way, I wonder how many ten year olds could work out that puzzle these days without a calculator.